List of Animals with Whiskers (and Why They Have Them)

A dog or cat may be the first animals that come to mind when you think about whiskers. These hairy appendages are present in many mammals. Well, the most of them do. It may surprise you to learn that creatures other than mammals possess whiskers. Discover which animals have whiskers, why they have them, and a list of animals with whiskers by reading on.

What Are Whiskers?

Stiff hairs called whiskers typically protrude from an animal’s face. Mammals that have whiskers are also known as vibrissae. These particular hairs have deep skin roots. Due to the abundance of blood vessels and nerves within the whisker follicles, whiskers are extremely sensitive. They frequently grow around the muzzle, but in certain species, they can also grow inside the nostrils or around the eyes. The species that grows whiskers will determine how long or short they are.

Why Do Animals Have Whiskers?

Whiskers serve as feelers in many species, enabling the animal to perceive its surroundings. They enable animals to sense vibrations by absorbing and transmitting vibrotactile information to the brain. They protect the animal’s head and some of its most vital body components by being positioned in the front of the face. Additionally, it can help the animal track prey and navigate its surroundings in the dark.

Which Animals Have Whiskers?

It is thought by scientists that early mammals had whiskers. The majority of mammals kept their whiskers, even though the arrangement and composition of whiskers changed as species changed. Nowadays, humans are one of the rare types of mammals without whiskers. Whiskers are not exclusive to mammals! Certain fish and birds have structures that resemble whiskers to aid in their environmental perception.

The whole list of animals having whiskers is provided here, in no particular order.

1. Carnivorans

Every member of the carnivorous mammalian order has whiskers. This includes raccoons, skunks, otters, cats, dogs, seals, walruses, mongooses, and more. Many of them have whiskers on their legs in addition to the majority of them on their faces. Vibrissae are referred to as carpal whiskers when they protrude from the legs.Similar to facial whiskers, carpal whiskers aid in an animal’s sense of orientation in dimly lit areas.

For hunting purposes, many carnivorans rely on their whiskers. Seals monitor the movement of prey through the water, particularly in deep areas where there is less light, using their extremely sensitive whiskers. Before contacting an object with their skin, raccoons may recognize it using the whiskers on their front toes. Because cat whiskers are so delicate, overstimulating them can occasionally cause whisker tiredness. This may occur if their food or drink dish is not sufficiently wide.

2. Rodents

For rats, who use their whiskers to locate food and gather information about their surroundings, whisker touch is a very important sense. In addition, they use their whiskers to navigate and maintain their equilibrium. Rats and mice use their whiskers to comb through items. They have autonomous movement of the whiskers on their left and right snouts. Four pairs of whiskers are present in squirrels: one on the nose, one under the chin, one on the throat, and one around the eyes. Chinchillas’ lengthy whiskers compensate for their low vision. The length of a chinchilla’s whiskers can reach a minimum of one-third of their body length.

3. Bats

Although we are aware that bats use echolocation to find their way while in flight, you might not be aware that they also utilize their whiskers. Researchers have discovered that whiskers aid in the agile movement and maneuvering of bats through the air. Additionally, whiskers aid in food finding and consumption. Hovering on nectar-filled blooms, nectar-feeding bats utilize their whiskers to sense a flower’s physical characteristics.

4. Cetaceans

The fact that smooth-faced dolphins and other cetaceans have whiskers may surprise you. The whiskers that dolphins and other toothed whales have at birth typically fall off before they reach adulthood. The Amazon River Dolphin is an anomaly, retaining the bristle whiskers that develop at the tip of its nose. In order to enable humpback whales and other baleen whales perceive their underwater environment, sensitive hairs sprout from the bumps on their heads.

5. Ungulates

Hooved animals, or ungulates, make up the majority of Earth’s terrestrial mammals. They consist of various animals like goats, pigs, giraffes, llamas, deer, horses, rhinoceroses, cows, sheep, and more. All of these creatures have whiskers. ungulates typically use their whiskers for navigation and feeding, just like other mammals do. Some of them, like horses and deer, have little muscular control over their whiskers and have fewer of them.

6. Elephants

Elephant trunks are covered in whiskers. Concentrated around the tip of the trunk are the whiskers. Touch sensitivity on the trunk is increased by these hairs. Compared to other animals, elephants have unique whiskers that are bigger and placed differently. Scientists surmise that the elephant’s whiskers originated to serve as a specialized touch organ at the same time as its trunk.

7. Marsupials

Even marsupials has whiskers! This group includes opossums, koalas, kangaroos, wombats, and other animals with a lot of whiskers. Upon birth, kangaroo babies use their whiskers to navigate out of their mother’s pouch.

8. Primates

The great beard on your neighbor should not fool you; humans do not have whiskers.The only other ape species without them is Homo sapiens. Although evolution stripped us of our whiskers, our animal ancestors still had them. The muscles that surround our upper lips are still remnants of our whiskers. (The monotremes, which include the platypus and echidna, are the only other mammals without whiskers to mention.)

All of our ape cousins, from the biggest mountain gorilla to the smallest mouse lemur, do have whiskers. Many primates use their whiskers for navigation, food finding, and social engagement, just like other animals do.Because they require greater assistance to navigate the dark, nocturnal monkeys tend to have more whiskers and intrinsic muscle control over them than diurnal primates, which have fewer whiskers overall.

9. Birds

Riccital bristles are a form of vibrissae, or feathers that resemble hair, found on a wide variety of birds. The majority of bird species are composed of rictal bristles. Researchers believe that these structures, which resemble whiskers, could aid birds in navigating and finding food, but their exact purpose is still unknown.The rictal bristles of numerous birds, including owls, flycatchers, eagles, and bluebirds, are present.

10. Fish

Some fish have unique appendages called barbels that resemble whiskers. Like whiskers, barbels aid in a fish’s ability to feel its surroundings. They are not hairy; instead, they are squishy and sensitive. Fish are able to taste and touch with their barbels! Barbels are found on carp, sturgeon, catfish, and other fish.

Animal Type Example Animals
Carnivora Cats, raccoons, seals
Rodents Mice, squirrels, chinchillas
Bats Insect-feeding bats, nectar-feeding bats
Cetaceans Dolphins, whales
Ungulates Cows, giraffes, horses
Elephants African elephants, Asian elephants
Marsupials Kangaroos, wombats, opossums
Primates Gorillas, marmosets, lemurs
Birds Flycatchers, owls, eagles
Fish Catfish, sturgeon, carp